THE holiday festive season is one of those times people are most likely to gain weight. There are usually a lot of open houses and parties — all of which involve glorious foods, sweets and drinks. Plus, in Malaysia, just as we’re finishing one festive season, another one comes along, so recovering from the overeating can be extra challenging.

You can avoid festive season overeating and weight gain with some effort.

I often get asked how I avoid gaining weight during the festive season with all the tempting delicacies and parties. Here’s what I do:


I know many people who often skip breakfast on festive holidays, anticipating that they will be eating plenty during their visits to family and friends. Can you relate to that? They assume that by skipping breakfast, they can save calories and allow themselves to eat more later. That’s one thing I never do.Research shows that skipping breakfast will cause your metabolism to dip as you would have gone the whole night without eating anything. Plus, if you don’t eat breakfast, you will have a tendency to get overly famished and will be more likely to overeat.

So knowing what I know, I will have a high fibre and protein breakfast, such as a bowl of oatmeal cooked in milk topped with fruit and nuts, or wholegrain toast with cheese, or a vege egg omelette to start my day with.


Festive parties will usually have an array of foods, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. At a party, I save my taste buds for must-have foods that I relish. I do this by making my food choices based on priority because I believe in the quality of the taste. What this means is that I will have the foods that I absolutely look forward to during the festive season. I don’t waste my calories on foods that I can get on any other day. For example, I would rather have a serving of a wonderful home-cooked signature dish than fill up on the common foods I can get any other day, or store-bought festive cookies.


I always take a small portion when preparing food for myself. Sometimes, I will use the small plate that is available at the buffet. I then make it a point to move away from the food table and socialise. Keeping my mouth busy chatting burns calories too, you know!


I usually forego the sugary soft drinks and carbonated sodas at parties. Instead, I help myself to water. If there’s no water available at the party, especially if the event is catered, I will put lots of ice cubes in my drink to dilute it.


Even if it’s the festive season, I will make it a point to go for my walks, at whatever time that I can manage to fit it in. If I can’t get out of the house, then I blast out some music and just dance! I know most people would forgo their usual exercise routine during the holidays but I find that exercise is a fantastic stress relief, especially during the hectic holiday season.


One subliminal thing I do has nothing to do with food per se, but it is what I wear. I notice that when I wear something that is fitted to parties. I am more aware that I have had enough to eat as I am mindful of my posture and tummy. I know it may sound unconventional, but it works to remind me to put that fork and spoon down when I am already feeling a slight tightness — like an invisible girdle!

Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple, practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at

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